This post is just to avoid the usual misconceptions between gamification and games. Although the names are very similar, they are not the same thing. In fact, they are not the same thing at all. There are three words that address gamification: motivation, persuasion and games. Not to mention, gamification is often discussed as a Design strategy. I must admit that in that case, I totally agree. Gamification is a design process and a design choice. However, in which way?
Gamification as game design elements?
Gamification had its first definition as the utilisation of game design elements into non-gaming contexts. Well, we have been using games in non-gaming contexts through serious games and persuasive games. Although the idea is actually the implementation of those game mechanics, the focus on the game design elements pushes the application of gamification towards game-like activities. This approach makes everything look like a game and in fact, it might be not exactly like a game at all. Gamification goes beyond that.

Gamification as a tool of persuasion or motivation?
Right, because gamification tends to make you do things that are good for you but you don’t feel like doing them, it can be related to persuasion, right? However, this is like the two sides of the same coin. Is it persuasion or motivation? Where is the line that divides persuasion from motivation? The answer here might be an issue of goals. If I want to do something, but I lack of motivation, then it is motivation. If I don’t even know that I want to do something, then I need to be persuaded. However, that difference between one and the other needs to be refined. People mention persuasive technologies a lot in this case. Things like providing the right access and ability to perform a task and some triggers may function to persuade someone to do something. But, yet, again, is it motivation or persuasion? Or maybe motivation that drives persuasion?
I think that gamification might actually try to do both – if possible. But it might have an order. First, you might persuade someone to do something. Then you motivate them to keep doing it. It is possible that the gamification strategy could have two approaches at the same time – why not. Or it may vary according to the context (health, education and so on). Or even better – it will vary according to the PEOPLE.

And what about the game-side of the gamification?
Personally, I’m starting to think that the name is the main problem. It should be design for motivation or design for persuasion. Or maybe people really need to explain better – myself probably. I must admit that I’ve done some mistakes as well, mainly because of the name.

My research is NOT about gamification
Now I need to make a point. I’m not studying gamification. In fact, I’m very far from that. I’m looking at advergames, which are indeed games for advertising purposes. I’m not researching in-games advertising, if you thought about it just because of the name. I’m looking at advergames, games that are TOTALLY shaped for the advertising message. Are those games brand-related? Sometimes. Are those games persuasive? Yes, totally. Are those games gamification? NOT AT ALL. If we look from the lenses of persuasion, it may have some similarities. Advergames are created to change consumers attitudes, make them share the message with others and make them remember the product or something before making a decision. But gamification has motivation as one of the main principles. And it really feels that one of the main triggers here needs to come from the individual. Games are, of course, amazing engaging tools and it is a fact that they can really change the world. This is why gamification was born from the game-design elements. BUT, the aim and nature of gamification is motivation – and can be combined with persuasion in some cases. For marketing, for example, it is almost impossible to motivate someone to buy a product. You persuade someone to buy a product. Moreover, advergames are games – this means that they are a WHOLE game with ALL the elements functioning together. Even if you break the elements and change them, they will be always games, with game mechanics, interface design, story and so on. And if you manipulate one element of the game, you are still working in the game perspective. So, because of that, I can say – I’m NOT researching gamification. And it might be very difficult to explore gamification for advertising and marketing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any interest whatsoever in gamification. I actually want to keep discussing this aspect and I really want to get involved in the Design process and research. But till now, I just need to make myself clear. :)

photo credit: Goomba Clay Figure from Nintendo’s Super Mario via photopin (license)

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